Virtues and Psychological Flexibility

Part of being emotionally unhealthy, or psychologically inflexible, is a function of being disconnected from what really matters in life. As we move toward psychological illness, we lose our life direction. This can be experienced in a generalized sense of apathy. Day to day life starts to take on a sense of just going through the motions. This type of inflexibility can also be manifested in a host of other negative experiences like distraction, impulsivity, and obsessions with thoughts and feelings.

A core aspect of psychological flexibility is the ability to connect and be guided by virtues in daily living. This occurs when we can move past dysfunctional feelings and thought patterns that seek to define us, to a place of deeper purpose. Virtues operate at the heart level and guide us to a sense of purpose. (See previous article on Managing Feelings for more information on Body, Spirit Soul and Heart). Virtues more importantly point us to the Holy Spirit and opportunities for spiritual growth.

What are Virtues?

The Christian is called to a life of discipleship; that is, following Jesus Christ. This is not meant to be a life free of pain and suffering, but instead, a life full of light and purpose. This is made possible by the addition of a deeper level of fulfillment, joy and peace despite worldly suffering and affliction. This deeper peace, frequently termed serenity, can only be known through Jesus Christ. What guides us along our way in following Jesus involve virtues. It’s like an “inner compass” given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Biblically, we are told of a struggle between light and darkness. In another sense, virtues act like armor that help us remain in the goodness of God’s light, and enable us to live our life for the good of His design and purpose.

1 Thessalonians 5: 4 – 9 points us to this spiritual reality:

“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Virtues define our direction and sense of purpose in life. Seven core virtues identified in Christian tradition are Faith, Hope, Love, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Galatians 5:22 – 23 points us to the fruit of the Spirit, as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit can be a type of virtue instilled in us by work of the Holy Spirit, when we align our life with His will. We know we are growing spiritually when we see these fruits at work in the important areas of our life.

So What’s It All About?

Thoughts and feelings often lead in many different directions. If we allow these things to lead us (especially when depressed, anxious, traumatized, etc.), our lives become unmanageable. Virtues can give us a clear vision and sense of purpose even when struggling with significant emotional problems or overwhelming life situations.

So what’s it all about? Where is your inner compass leading you? Is the path that you are choosing in your everyday life matching up with your virtues? Are you able to look past thoughts and feelings to search for something deeper in life? Following the inner compass is the key factor in restoring emotional health and psychological flexibility. It is the key to regaining a life of meaning and purpose.

Try The CCA Inner Compass Worksheet

This tool will help in your counseling or personal work to look past thoughts and feelings and focus on virtues in the most important areas of your life.

Download the CCA Inner Compass Worksheet here

At Christian Counseling Associates (CCA), our commitment to our clients is guided by the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Our staff seeks a life of service to those who will seek counseling at CCA. We desire to help our clients restore and strengthen their sense of life purpose which is often lost in the midst of painful life experiences. Looking for someone to join you on the path of recovery? Call CCA, it would be an honor to walk alongside you on a Christ-led path of growth and healing!

God Bless!

Richard Hoffman Ph.D.

Clinical Director
Christian Counseling Associates

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